Use of plain form during conversation in Japanese language

Use of plain form is one of the confusing sentence pattern I have encountered in the study of Japanese language. The confusion is on the situation and with whom the plain form can be used. It is understood that the plain form can be used with friends and among family members for example. When it comes to switch between forms – plain – polite – honorific, Japanese language becomes too harder for a foreigner.

One of the most frequently used and easy to use conversational piece to understand the use of polite form is the reason a person says to explain why he became late to meet his friend. The question can also be in the plain form by adding か at the end of the sentence. Let us assume the conversation between Tom-san and Kimura-san.

木村さん:どうして 遅れたんですか。(どうして おくれたんですか。Dooshite okuretan desu ka?)

トム:バスが 来なかったんです。(バスがこなかったんです。Basu ga konakattan desu)
Kimura-san: Why were you late?
Tom-san: The bus did not come.

Kimura-san was expecting that Tom-san will reach at the scheduled time of their meet. Tom could not come at the promised time. Tom was late for the appointment. When they met each other, Kimura-san asks Tom-san the reason for his late coming. Tom-san explains the reason for his delay that the bus did not come. It is understood to the listener that Tom might have used another mode for the travel. Many Japanese language text books use this reason for the delay. Tom-san says the bus did not come and does not say how he reached, or it may be the continuation of their conversation.

After learning the plain form, we tend to use plain form with all situations. The switching between the forms depending on the conditions of conversation is a conscious process. Plain can not be used when one talks with his/her superior or a person of higher status.

The reason for the delay could be (train delayd…) 電車が遅れて…..which is more frequent now a days due to じんしんじこ(human accident or suicide).

If we see a friend wearing a new shirt, we can ask どこで かったんですか。(from where did you buy). “When did you come to Japan” in plain Japanese is いつ日本へ

きたんですか。Here きましたか changed to きたんですか。Interestingly, the ですか is still used in the plain form.

If something is not beautiful or attractive, we can say きれいじゃないんです (kirei ja nain desu). To express the (i) い adjuctive like さむいsamui (cold) in plain form, we can say さむいんです。The (na) な adjuctive for example again the きれい will be きれいなんです (kirei nandesu)。Note that for na adjuctive is changed to nandesu.

The Japanese name used in the above example is Kimura which is written in Japanese Kanji as 木村. The 木 or ki stands for the tree and the 村 or mura stands for the village. The Kanji村 is a combination of two Kanji, the left one is the Kanji for tree (ki) and the right one is the Kanji for law or measure. Kimura is one of the popular names in Japan.

This post is a kind of revision for me of what I have learned from the Japanese language class. The new year holidays is a long gap for Japanese language study. During the recent new year holidays, the score report of the practice JLPT test for the new JLPT also came. As I have written in the previous mail the New Japanese language proficiency test (新日本語能力試験 – しんにほんごのうりょくしけん)was a free practice test for candidates applied for the original JLPT held on December 5th, 2010. As expected my listening (ちょうかい)scored less than the average score, when the language knowledge and reading (げんごちしきとどっかい) scored around 86%. The original JLPT result is expected to come on the first or second week of March 2011.

Please notify me if there are any mistakes in the Japanese hiragana or Kanji typed in this post. This is the first time I typed Japanese scripts directly from the keyboard. Before I was using MauveCloud’s Browser Tests: Kana Generator to input Japanese scripts in this blog.Recently only I could change the windows English setup to type Japanese scripts.

Wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year!

Author: Jayaprakash

1 thought on “Use of plain form during conversation in Japanese language

  1. げんごちしきとどくかい
    dokukai.
    sometimes, it can hear dogkai

    げんごちしきトどくかい(ゲンゴチシキとドクカイ)
    it can distinguish the words with using hiragana and katakana)

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